Education: What Do I Want to Learn?


"My son, if you accept my words ...

turning your ear to wisdom and

applying your heart to understanding, and

if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as

for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."

King Solomon

During the summer before their senior high school years, our two children, Judson and Jessica, received a host of brochures advertising particular colleges or fields of study. It set the stage for great soul-searching. They began to think: This is a big deal. I'm growing up. I must decide what I'm going to do with my life. What kind of training do

I want? Help!

Your brothers or sisters or children or coworkers also might be asking for help.

Educational Facts to Consider

To gather facts about further education, ask yourself these questions:

* Is my protégé (the person I lead) ready for college? People mature at different rates. Although schools group children according to age as a matter of convenience, graduating from high school doesn't necessarily mean that teens are mentally or emotionally ready for college.

* Should my protégé go to college? There's no automatic answer. Not every youth should go to college, even if mentally capable of succeeding at that level of education. A technical school or a first job may be more in line with your protégé's needs and aspirations. If you try to persuade him to go to college when he feels it's not right for him, you may cause him to feel guilty, rebellious, or inadequate.

* Which colleges best fit my protégé? Vast differences exist regarding academic standards and educational theories. Do you know what a school values ... and do you support those values? Does the college place a higher priority on athletics or academic excellence? Is there a balance?

* What do I have to offer? Although you play an important part in helping youth make decisions, it is not helpful if in your counsel, you're trying to relive your own college dreams. Are you really seeking their welfare? Do you encourage the study and reading habits they'll need for higher education? If college is not an option, can you point them to where they will get the life skills they need, such as correspondence schools, continuing education seminars, or night and weekend classes?

* What resources does my protégé have? The cost of a college education is significant. How will your youth's education be funded? Have you advised him or her adequately to explore scholarship aid? If not, do you know where to suggest they go for more information?

Making a list of the questions you need to answer and searching the internet or your library for answers is a helpful way to prepare yourself for mentoring.

Educational Values to Share

List the values that have steadied you, anchored you in turbulent times, and that you want to transfer to your protégé. The following list will get you started.

* Learning is enjoyable. A positive attitude about learning new information makes grappling with even difficult concepts rewarding. Encourage your protégé to approach reading, courses, and discussions with the attitude that they can benefit from learning the subject.

* Education never ends. By your own example, you can convey that a teachable spirit looks for ways to gain knowledge and search for truth.

* Gaining wisdom is a lifetime goal. Youth may not realize knowledge and wisdom are not the same. I counseled a brilliant doctor with vast knowledge who made really dumb mistakes in her interpersonal relationships. In spite of all she knew, she was not wise. Wisdom--learning how to best use knowledge--equips us for living an abundant life.

* "Dig deep, irrigate widely." A favorite slogan of Dr. Ken Pike, former head of the Linguistics Department at the University of Michigan, the image suggests a value I want to convey to the youth I lead: thinking well may be difficult, but the deeper we go, the broader and more useful the application.

* Reason and faith are complimentary. Scientific process is built on the belief that certain natural laws will continue to hold true, whether or not they are fully understood. Water always boils at 212 degrees at sea level. Gravity always pulls objects heavier than air to the ground. Without faith in natural laws, reason and science would be impossible. Likewise, faith in God, who is far more mysterious than any natural law, is not contrary to reason or science.

* Wisdom requires diligent searching. Discerning the best option takes effort.

Educational Questions to Ask

To encourage youth to make good decisions, make a habit of asking good questions. Granted, a lot of values are "caught instead of taught." But one way to "catch values" is to help your protégé develop an inquiring mind. As you ask questions, listen actively to your protégé's thoughts. Here are a few ways to get the discussion going.

* Ask for their opinion about news in your community, nation, and the world.

* Raise questions from your reading material. When something interests you, talk about it. It may encourage your protégé to read more if they see you benefit from your reading.

* Create an atmosphere where it feels safe for youth to express even half-formed ideas. Instead of an argument, aim for a mutual exchange of ideas. Never ridicule-it rarely works positively. Invite your protégés' views on topics of interest to them.

* If you sense resistance, ask if your thoughts about education make sense. Your credibility increases when you admit mistakes of logic or reason. You can say, "I guess that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?" "Well, I think you are right; I was wrong." Honesty plus humility helps generate credibility.

* Ask questions or make comments that expand your protégés' ability to explain their thoughts. Encourage new insights or logical connections:

"I think you made an excellent point!"

"That sounds interesting."

"Can you tell me more?"

"Have you thought about what you would do if...?"

"How did you arrive at that conclusion?" "Then what?"

You want them to think deeply and feel comfortable stating their thoughts.

How can you help the person you mentor make wise educational decisions?

God Bless,

Paul W. Swets

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